FOR SALE – Ford Model T Automobile Telescoping Apartment (Vintage Camper) $37,500
HEINTZ DESIGNS is listing this rig for a local friend and any interested party should contact the owner directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Using today’s terminology, the best way to describe this vehicle is that it is like a truck with a pickup camper that has a slide out compartment on each side of the camper. But this is not a modern vehicle. This vehicle is a Ford Model T, that is 96 years old and the “pickup camper” design with the slide outs is even older. It is very rare in that it only two campers like this exist in the USA today.
In 1916 Gustav De Bretteville of San Francisco invented and advertised an Automobile Telescope Apartment for sale in many magazines like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. Thanks to Google’s scanning of many library collections these magazines are still accessible on the internet. (Search for TELESCOPE APARTMENT in Google Books or look at the Model T forum link at the bottom of this page)
De Bretteville was advertising an “Apartment” or camper that could be easily affixed to the back of a Model T Ford roadster once the trunk was removed. The intriguing thing about his device was that it “telescoped out” to a cabin twice as long and 3 times as wide in the back telescoped section. Mr. De Bretteville didn’t call the telescoping sections “slide-outs” but this was the the world’s first slide out camper. In fact, this device had a patent issued in 1916 for its novel telescoping action. De Bretteville then offered this camper for sale at the price of $100 in 1916, FOB San Francisco, California. An original 16-page brochure about the Telescope Apartment will be included with the vehicle.
Only one Telescoping Apartment has survived, and it was found in California by David Woodworth, a noted collector of vintage RVs. Much of his collection was sold to the RV/MH museum in Elkhart IN and the surviving Telescoping Apartment is there in the museum today.
In 2009, I started a project to reproduce another Telescoping Apartment. A trip to the RV museum produced the necessary measurements, photographs and knowledge of how the device worked. At first it wasn’t obvious how the sliding compartments worked, but a hands-on inspection cleared up the mystery of how the slide outs worked.
I then found a suitable Model T roadster and completed a frame off restoration on it. Then over the next few years I built the 4 compartments that make up the Telescoping Apartment. There is a main front cabin, a sliding rear cabin and a left and right cabinet that each slide out of the rear cabin. The left slide out cabinet contains all that is required for an outside kitchen and the right cabinet has 4 drawers for storage.
The Model T Ford Roadster or Runabout is a 1924 model. It has a clean Florida title. I restored it in the 2009/2010-time frame. It was totally disassembled, cleaned to bare metal, epoxy primed and painted with PPG Concept Acrylic Urethane. The driveline was taken apart and restored. The engine was disassembled and found to be in good condition except for the magneto. The Model T had a distributor which was reused. Texas T disk brakes were added to handle the increased weight of the vehicle and the camper stops good. The car runs well now and has been driven about 500 miles since restoration. It is always trailered to events.
This camper vehicle which would have been, called a “house car” back in the day, has been furnished with period accessories and has a fully equipped kitchen to include a Coleman Stove and Lantern, pots and pans, enamelware dishes, a enamelware coffee pot, silverware, a display of canned supplies, a first aid kit, a tire patch kit, a folding table, 2 folding chairs, a running board cooler, and even a kitchen sink. All accessories are included and pack up inside the main cabin after all the telescoping cabinets are returned into the traveling position. The cooler is mounted on the running board for easy access.
When the apartment is fully open, the cabin is long enough to have a twin sized mattress, 2 windows for ventilation, a back door that can be closed for protection, a bookrack and electric lights just as advertised in the original brochure. The back door is hinged from the top and can be held in a horizontal position to form a roof over the rear opening to the sleeping area. Around this, there is a curtain that can be snapped in place to make a dressing room at the rear of the camper.
We have taken it to numerous automobile or camping events each year. It always draws a crowd and people will line up to discuss the vehicle because they haven’t seen a vehicle like it. It’s really amazing for the interest it draws and is always a hit at a show, be it a local event, or a national car show.
Notable events the camper has been invited to be shown at and won awards include:
Hilton Head Concours De Elegance (Palmetto Award) , Lake Mirror Concours in Lakeland FL, Edison and Ford Winter Estate Antique Car Show in Ft Myers, FL (Best in Show), the Plains Georgia Car Show where it was judged by President Carter and won a best of award, the Tin Can Tourists Winter Convention in FL (Best in Show) and Caffeine and Octane at the Beach Show on Jekyll Island GA (Best of Show).
BTW, a best of show award at the Caffeine and Octane show for a Model T is quite an honor at a show featuring million-dollar custom and exotic cars.
This link is to a Model T forum thread that provides more in-depth information about the camper.
The Ford Model T Telescoping Apartment (camper) is located near Destin FL and is priced at $37,500.
Please note that while the car is a restored Ford Model T the Telescoping Apartment is a replica of a camper made in 1916 and the camper was not a Ford product.